What Is An SDK? (With Definition, Types And Benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 19 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Computer programmers use a software development kit (SDK) to develop applications for software and hardware frameworks, operating systems and video game consoles. An SDK contains a set of tools that developers can use to build applications without having to develop code from scratch. Knowing more about an SDK and its features can help you design your own product or application by using pre-built components. In this article, we answer the question, 'What is an SDK?', explain how it works, list its types and benefits and share some examples to help you understand it better.

What Is An SDK?

The answer to, 'What is an SDK?' is that it is a collection of software utilities and tools that programmers use to develop custom applications for specified platforms. They can use pre-built components to develop applications more efficiently without having to code from scratch. Most SDKs include a compiler, a debugger and application programming interfaces (APIs). Following are some features of a good SDK:

  • Lightweight: It is important that programs within an SDK make optimal use of computer resources and have low memory and CPU usage.

  • Secure: SDKs require to be secure from malicious attacks, theft or unauthorised access.

  • Easy to use: Good SDKs provide well-written and easy-to-understand code, clear and detailed explanations of each component and solutions to common problems.

  • Customisable: Good SDKs provide developers with the ability to tweak the code and add their own designs and functionalities on top of it.

Some examples of SDKs include Java Development Kit (JDK), Windows App SDK, iOS SDK, Android Native Development Kit (NDK) and Java Web Services Development Pack (JWSDP).

Related: How To Become An Android Developer (A Step-By-Step Guide)

Characteristics Of An SDK

Most SDKs share some common characteristics and functions regardless of their purpose, developer and source. Some of them are:

  • Documentation: Documentations provide detailed steps on how a user can input data, process the code and obtain the output.

  • Libraries: Libraries are a collection of files, programs, scripts and pre-written code that developers can import and use in their code.

  • Editors: Programmers can use code editors to write, compile and execute their code.

  • Runtime environments: Runtime environments provide a platform with all the functionalities for a program to run.

  • Tools for testing: Developers can use testing tools to debug the code, find issues and make necessary fixes so that software works as intended.

  • Drivers: Drivers are programs that facilitate communication between the computer and software application.

  • Network protocols: Network protocols contain a set of rules, procedures and guidelines on how devices exchange data over networks.

Related: How Much Does An iOS Developer Make? (Skills And Duties)

Types Of SDKs

Here are some common types of SDKs:

Open-source SDK

Developers can view, modify and distribute open source SDKs. Members of the community often collaborate to release revised iterations that improve features or fix bugs. Examples of open source SDKs include Snyk Java SDK and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure SDK.

Related: What Is Open Source Software? (Benefits And Examples)

Hardware SDK

There are hardware SDKs available for Internet of Things (IoT) products, which include development pieces and technical documentation. Using the documentation, users can configure and use the product. As an example, the Snapdragon 865 mobile hardware development kit supports the design and development of mobile devices that run on the Snapdragon 865.

Related: Hardware Engineer Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

Mobile SDK

Software development kits (SDK) for mobile devices facilitate the development of a wide variety of mobile apps for tablets and smartphones. A mobile SDK comprises libraries, code samples, emulators, guides and APIs. Examples of mobile SDKs include Salesforce Mobile SDK and Google Mobile Ads SDK.

Related: What Is Software Development? A Complete Guide

Proprietary SDK

Proprietary SDKs are not open source and require developers to have a license to use them. It does not allow them to alter the source code. An SDK licence is a code that gives developers access to an SDK and allows them to use it legally.

Related: How To Write An Android Developer Resume (With Example)

Benefits Of An SDK

The benefits of using an SDK are:

  • Quick integration: SDKs contain all the components that developers can incorporate into their applications. Seamless integration helps in the faster development of an application and a shorter time to market.

  • Efficient development: Along with providing a variety of components, SDKs also contain additional functionalities such as crash reporting, solutions to common errors and gathering analytics, which can make the development process more efficient.

  • Faster deployment: With all the leading platforms already providing public SDKs, developers can accelerate the deployment process.

  • Regular updates: Open source SDKs allow developers from around the world to make continuous improvements, such as regular patches for vulnerabilities, bug fixes and code changes to optimise its working. This ensures that the SDK is in alignment with the changing industry standards and up-to-date with the latest technology.

  • Customised user experience: Using an SDK tool provides you with the ability to decide how a product interacts with third-party applications. You can also customise your product's user interface to suit client requirements.

  • Better control over components: After having deployed an SDK tool, you have better control over its components and how it interacts with various third-party applications.

  • Improved reach: Using an SDK helps improve a product's interoperability, which is its ability to integrate and interact with other products or systems. It helps build credibility for the brand and exposes the product to a wider audience.

  • Built-in support: SDKs contain code that is simple and easy to understand, along with detailed documentation. This helps developers resolve issues quicker and focus more on the quality of development.

Related: Essential Web API Interview Questions And Example Answers

How To Use An SDK

Follow the steps below to use an SDK:

1. Obtain the SDK

Download or purchase the SDK from the vendor site. There are detailed installation guides included in SDKs for various platforms, such as Windows, Linux and OS X. Follow the instructions carefully and install the SDK onto your system.

Related: Backend Developer Skills: Definition And Examples

2. Use the APIs

Start with an integrated development environment (IDE) and the open APIs you require to build your new application. The SDK contains tools for developing applications in a specific programming language or platform. SDKs also contain detailed documentation that you can leverage when modifying the code base or testing your application.

Related: Commonly Asked REST API Interview Questions (With Answers)

3. Customise your product

You can use all the libraries, headers, tools and documentation to customise your product. Conduct various tests, such as unit tests, integration tests and functional tests, to ensure that your product is functional and works as intended. You can offer your product as a free service, one-time purchase or on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Related: 10 Mobile App Development Tools (With Salient Features)

SDK Examples

Here are some examples of using SDKs:

Example 1

Following is an example of a blogging platform that makes its services free for web developers:

Users can create their own blogs and portfolios through a blogging network. Developers of a blogging platform assess the value that it can generate for the company. By providing SDKs, the blogging platform makes it possible for other developers to create customised themes, extensions, plug-ins and applications. This allows users to add a variety of new features to their blogs and websites that increase reader engagement. Through this, the platform can improve its user experience and grow its customer base, resulting in an increase in revenue.

Example 2

Following is an example of a gaming company that makes its services free for game developers:

A gaming company provides SDKs that game developers can utilise to create custom avatars, in-game merchandise, maps and gameplay. Developers can create high-quality games using SDKs that contain tools, headers, graphics and libraries. The game's online store would allow developers from around the globe to create and sell their creations.

The gaming company keeps a small percentage of each purchase made on the platform. As part of their monitoring, they also collect in-game user data, user behaviour, game analytics and other information that can help them better understand the players and how they interact to improve their products. This helps them increase the revenue and grow their customer base.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are associated with Indeed.

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